When I became a parent I started to question everything. None of the parenting books and websites out there felt quite right. They were full of advice that ran against my instincts - the cry it out method for sleeping, drugs for reflux, drugs for anything for that matter, timeouts for kids as they get older, labeling, fear, coercion, guilt, manipulation, shaming, threats, counting, charts, yelling, oh and spanking. None of this has ever felt right to do, so I started to research alternatives to find guidance on what was in my heart and my mind and what did feel right.
I would say our parenting philosophy is based on the belief that ALL people deserve to be treated with respect, including our children. With this in mind I think first about whether what I am going to do or say to my child is something I would do or say it to my Significant Other or my own parent? If the answer is no, then I try to think of a different way of doing things based in love and connection, working with them instead of against them.
I believe every moment with my children is a teaching moment. So what I do or say to my child, what I model for my child, is what they learn to do or say in return If I were to hit them, I'd be teaching them to hit when someone doesn't do as they want. Another example that just came up recently is “bad words”. Are they really bad words, and if they are, then why is it OK for adults to say them but not children? Would you wash an adult's mouth out with soap? No? Well then why wash a child’s mouth out with soap? Why not just not make a big deal out of it and give them a better word to use? I might say, “Yes, it is ok to be angry, but here is a better word than the word you used.” Our children are new on our planet, in our culture, and need a guide, not a jailer –I strive to teach them and support them rather than punish them! If I treat them with love and respect, then, over time, as they are developmentally able, I feel confident that they will learn to have love and respect for everyone, including themselves. Children have really big thoughts and feelings and they are very valid thoughts and feelings. I try to connect and understand and validate, rather than discipline or judge. A quick quote that has really stuck in my mind is, “connect before you direct” as said by Gordon Neufeld. That connection can make the need for traditional forms of discipline unnecessary, as true connection brings greater cooperation.
I also try to find the yes in everything even if the answer is “no”. For example, it is 8 at night and my son wants to go to the park. I first validate his thoughts and feelings of wanting to go to the park and then I say yes we can go to the park right after breakfast tomorrow. And I do follow through! If he says he wants to go right now then we talk about the park rules of being closed after dark and some safety ideas and also try to find an alternative thing that will fulfill the park need right then. When I am able to move past “yes” or “no” and to think outside the box, other solutions, much better solutions, tend to present themselves. I have found more creativity in myself in the last year than I thought I ever had. It is really refreshing and we all have more joyful days in our family than frustrating days.
Speaking of creativity or doing things differently I believe you really have to connect and get to know your child as an individual. Every child is different. One child may need more snacks or sleep than another child, another they may need more quiet time or really big spaces to feel free and move. It is all about being creative and finds ways for our children to be who they really are and not who we want or need them to be.
I find joy in my day with my kids even when they are fighting and screaming. Yes I do get on edge sometimes and even feel like I might lose it. But think of it this way - if I did not have kids there would be no sound of children - happy or sad. I truly believe that if everyone in our world prioritized connection and respect, rather than power and obedience, the impacts would be far reaching - there would be no war - instead there would be an abundance of peace and joy.
A Quote from Pam Leo on connected parenting, “Connection parenting is an ideal, a navigation star we can look to for guidance. Whenever we question how to respond to a child we can ask ourselves, will this response create a connection or a disconnection. We feel connected when we feel listened to and loved. We feel disconnected when we feel hurt and unheard.”
Here are some great websites that I have found very helpful.